Empire Barbershop adjusts to new norms - Odessa American: Local News

Empire Barbershop adjusts to new norms

By Tony Venegas tvenegas@oaoa.com, 432-333-7649 | Posted: Friday, July 10, 2020 10:27 am

For Carlos Villerreal, the last two months have been an adjustment to say the least. 

Villerreal and his wife, Amyee Duarte, co-own and operate Empire Barbershop located at 120 E. 8th Street in downtown Odessa.

The shop was closed during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in March and reopened in May after Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order allowing barber shops, nail salons and beauty shops to reopen their doors to customers.

Since reopening, Villerreal says business has seen an early dip before steadying out. He attributes that to the economy as a whole in the area.

“A lot of people have lost their jobs as well,” he said. “We were a little slower than usual but I think as long as another shutdown doesn’t happen, I feel we’ll be able to stay steady and make it.”

In order to make things work and to stay in compliance with the government’s guidelines for barber shops to operate, Villerreal took a different approach with his business. Abbott’s executive order allowed barber shops to reopen May 8 but Empire did not open until May 12, the following Tuesday.

At the time, Villerreal and Duarte told the Odessa American that it was done to give the staff more time to prepare with the upcoming safety measures.

“At the end of the day, our barber’s safety is just as important as anyone who visits our shop whether you’re a long time client or someone who is just dropping in for the day,” the statement read in part.

Two months later, Villerreal says he’s glad he went that direction.

“It helped us dodge a little bit of the rush of people wanting to get haircuts right away,” he said. “We weren’t too slammed and we didn’t have to worry about that too much. I think everything worked out better that way.”

The barber shop had a steady stream of customers Wednesday afternoon as the shop is set up differently to what it was before. Everyone is required to wear masks in compliance with the statewide mask mandate except for when getting a haircut. The shop has also spaced out the barbers in line with social distancing guidelines as well.

Villerreal added that cleanliness was paramount in his training to become a barber and is even more so while trying to stay open.

“We’ve spread everybody out and we make sure that we clean up really well,” he said. “Barbers take care of our stuff and we clean everything well from our clippers to our chairs and stations. It’s not really too much of a change for us to do this.”

Villerreal added that the shop is looking to hire two more barbers to the shop to keep up with the demand. The best way to get in contact for those positions is to either send a message on the company’s Facebook page or call the shop and ask for Carlos.

Villerreal also said that he’s been keeping a close eye on the increase of coronavirus cases in Ector County. He hopes that he doesn’t have to shut down the shop again and is simply trying to make the best of the situation.

“We haven’t heard anything so far about that,” he said. “Hopefully nothing changes.”